A picture book with good illustrations gives a book longevity, it enables you to return again and again and revisit a familiar tale. When did you last really look at the pictures, take another look, see something new? Share that book with a child and they will see something you haven’t even spotted yet. Some books just cry out to be revisited. Some books wink at the adult reader (‘See, I put that in especially for you,’ they say – see below, from Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett).
“Picture books can be deceptive. There may be more to them than first meets the eye. Good picture books deal with important human issues and can convey quite complex ideas despite their economic use of words.”
Badderley & Eddershaw 1994
When I am looking for quality picture books my first stop is always the Greenaway shortlists. The Kate Greenaway Medal was established by The Library association in 1955 and has been drawing our eye to high quality picture books ever since. These days the medal is awarded by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). The shortlists for this year have just been announced. The award itself offers exciting opportunities for children to shadow the awards, get to know the books and share their thoughts. There is an official shadowing scheme that schools can get involved in, a safe place for groups to create their own shadowing website and share their opinions on the selected books with others.
“…picture books are often given less attention than books aimed at older children…This attitude is puzzling. Illustrations bring the text to life, and aid understanding of the story, prompting questions and responses to the tale.”
Booktrusted News 2004
5 questions to ask when looking at picture books:
1) What is your eye drawn to first in the picture?
2) Does the picture describe just what is happening in the text or does it add more information?
3) How much has the illustrator involved you in telling the story? How much is left to your imagination?
4) What are your first impressions when you look at this page?
5) Describe how you read the images and text. How do your eyes travel across the page?
“A picture book is text, illustrations, total design; an experience for a child. As an art form it hinges on the interdependence of pictures and words, on the simultaneous display of two facing pages, and on the drama of the turning page.”
5 activity ideas to use with picture books:
1) Give the children one illustration from a book and ask them to think of a title.
2) What is happening outside of the picture? Photocopy one page and get the children to extend the illustration.
3) Imagine you are in the picture – what can you see, smell, hear, touch and taste?
4) Let the children look at a page for one minute, then ask them to draw and write everything they remember.
5) Wrap a selection of books in cellophane and ask the children to predict what each one is about and sort them into groups to see if they can see patterns or themes.
More about quality illustrators can be found here.
Charlotte Reed – Primary English Consultant